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Cozy up with cocoa

Snow, snow and more snow! With a winter unlike any we’ve seen for a while, taking advantage of all that snow is a great way to get out in the fresh air and do something fun with the family. Sledding, snowmobiling, ice skating, snowball fights or simply building a snowman is good exercise for the body, as well as the soul…the perfect remedy for cabin fever.

When it’s time to come in from the cold, cozy up with a hot cup of scratch-made cocoa. Whether in front of the fireplace or around the family table it’s just the ticket to warm from the inside out.

Most of us have grown accustomed to watery cocoa from a packet, which is okay. But why have just okay when making your own is easy and gives you the opportunity to make it any way you like it.

Start with unsweetened cocoa powder then add a sweetener and a milk of choice. As for cooking methods, a saucepan on the stove and lots of stirring makes a rich and creamy cocoa in about 10 minutes. The slow cooker is another option and allows for cocoa on demand, plus more servings. There’s even a healthier version for those who want their cocoa naturally sweetened and dairy-free.

To jazz up your cocoa top with marshmallows or whipped cream. Add a peppermint stir stick or spices for extra flavor. For adult cocoa, a shot of your favorite liqueur will add to the warmth.

Creamy Hot Cocoa

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/8 tsp. salt

1/3 cup half-and-half

4 cups whole milk

Mini marshmallows or whipped cream

Grated chocolate, for garnish

Directions: In medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cocoa and salt till blended. Whisk in half-and-half. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, till mixture comes to a boil. Simmer 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Still stirring constantly, add milk and heat till hot but not boiling.

Remove from heat and whisk vigorously till frothy. Pour into mugs and top with marshmallows or whipped cream. If desired, using a micro grater, grate a little sweetened chocolate over each mug. Makes 4 to 5 servings.

Rich Slow Cooker Hot Cocoa

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup heavy cream

6 cups whole milk

Mini marshmallows, for garnish

Directions: Place all ingredients except marshmallows in slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook, covered, on LOW 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Add marshmallows 10 minutes before serving to melt them. Makes 8 servings.

Healthier Hot Cocoa

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup pure maple syrup or honey

2 1/2 cups soy or almond milk

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Directions: In medium saucepan whisk together all ingredients. Over medium heat, continue to whisk till smooth and hot but not boiling.

Serve immediately in mugs. Top with non-dairy whipped cream if desired. Serves 2.

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